Monday, December 23, 2019

Holiday Break

Christmas tree in McBurney Plaza. Select image to enlarge.

Have a very merry Christmas, and a happy new year. I hope you get to spend some time with the people who mean the most to you in your life.

Christmas display in McBurney Plaza. Select image to enlarge.

I will be taking a break from blogging over the next few weeks. I will be back on January 6th. See you in 2020!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

December Council Meetings: Transit ridership up 30%, Preparing for SkyTrain, and the Magic of Christmas.

In the summer of 2018, council adopted Langley City: Nexus of Community. This is a comprehensive vision for our community focused around preparing for the arrival of SkyTrain. One of the key requirements of this vision is to have City staff report back annually to council on the progress made in implementing this vision. Council received the second annual update at Monday night’s council meeting.

Out of the 23 recommendations made in the Nexus of Community vision, 13 are in-progress including:

  • Communication plan about Nexus approved by council
  • Community outreach launched about Nexus
  • Official Community Plan update in-progress
  • Zoning bylaw update in-progress
  • Capital budget plan to support Nexus on-going
  • Expand Development Services completed
  • Advisory Design Panel approved by council
  • Nicomekl River Neighbourhood Plan in-progress
  • $1 million Prosperity Fund created
  • Strategic property acquisition and site assembly on-going
  • Economic Development Commission created
  • Iconic Entertainment/Cultural development (Performing Art Centre) in-progress
  • Annual progress reporting about Nexus on-going

Many of these initiatives will wrap up at the end of 2020 which should free up City resources to move forward with the remaining Nexus of Community recommendations.

Councillor Albrecht and Councillor Wallace presenting awards for the Magic of Christmas parade. Select image to enlarge.

Langley City’s Magic of Christmas parade a few weekends ago was the best yet! Awards were giving for the best parade entries this year at the Monday night meeting.

Transit ridership on 502 & 503 up over 30%. Select image to enlarge.

At the December 9th meeting, council received an update about the various projects occurring in our community. Some of the highlights include:

  • Installing new wire theft deterrents on City streetlights
  • Completing boulevard maintenance along 200th Street
  • Improving the Pleasantdale Creek trail
  • Building an off-leash dog area in Brydon Park, plus creating a new trail network within the park
  • Building a new washroom at Nicholas Park
  • Implementing bus lanes in Downtown Langley to support the 30% increase in transit ridership on the 503/503 since the launch of the new Fraser Highway Express

For a community that is only 10 square kilometres in size, we have a lot of good things going on.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

December 16 Council Meeting: Call to Artists for Public Art. Crime Prevention Task Group Mandate Renewed.

Langley City has several committees and task groups which investigate specific topics on behalf of council, and make recommendations for council to consider. These task groups and committees can include members of council, members of the public, city staff, and people who are topic experts.

At Monday night’s council meeting, several committee recommendations were approved by council.

The Arts and Culture Task Group recommended that a Call to Artists be made for the creation of a wrap-around mural on the washroom building at Linwood Park. The mural submissions will be required to be themed around the interurban passenger and freight electric railway that used to run down the middle of Michaud Crescent until the 1950s. The budget for this mural would include $2,000 for materials, and $1,000 as an honorarium.

This recommendation was approved by council.

Another Call to Artist was recommended by the Arts and Culture Task Group for a feature art piece at City Park located near the picnic shelters. This feature art piece would be funded up to $20,000 using money from the City’s Public Art Fund.

This recommendation was approved by council with the Mayor opposed. The City’s Public Art Fund currently sit at $40,000.

The Arts and Culture Task Group will review artists’ submissions, and will present their recommendations to council for final approval.

Council also approved extending the mandate of its Crime Prevention Task Group until the end of 2020 with an updated mandate. This updated mandate will focus the task group’s work on:

  • Continuing to advance media messaging around crime prevention and community defense model programs in collaboration with the City’s Communication Officer
  • Continuing with the door-to-door “Know Your Neighbour” campaign
  • In partner with the Community Police Office, promoting and educating residents about existing RCMP programs such as Block Watch, crime prevention such as CPTED, and community defense model programs such as neighbourhood gatherings
  • In partnership with the Community Police Office, Downtown Langley Business Association and Chamber of Commerce, promoting and educating business owners about existing RCMP programs, crime prevention, and community defense model programs

At the December 9th meeting, council received an update on the implementation of some recommendations made by the Crime Prevention Task Group including:

  • Three new lights that were installed in the lane north of Fraser Highway west and east of Salt Lane and four additional lights that were installed in Fuller Lane south of Fraser Highway
  • Community gardens along Michaud that have been completed, and community gardens that are being built in Douglas Park

Tomorrow, I will post about the remaining items covered over the last two council meetings.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

December 16 Council Meeting: Proposed Downtown 6-storey, mixed-use building. Board appointments renewed.

Last night was the final public Langley City council meeting for the year. The next meeting will be on January 13, 2020.

Council gave first and second reading to a rezoning bylaw which will accommodate a proposed 6-storey, mixed-use building that will front Logan Avenue, 203 A Street, and Locke Lane near the casino. This building is proposed to have 114 apartment units and 2,085 square feet of ground-level retail space. An average coffee shop is around 1,000 square feet.

Ground-level view from 203 A Street and Locke Lane. Select image to enlarge.

View from Logan Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

Top-down view from Locke Lane. Select image to enlarge.

Because the site is located next to high-frequency bus transit today, and will be a short walk from the future 203rd Street SkyTrain station, the number of parking spots is proposed to be reduced from the typical 214 spaces to 192 spaces. This helps make the ground-level retail proposed as part of this project viable.

The proposed siting of the project will also allow the upgrade of Logan Avenue to include a wider sidewalk and protected bike lanes in the future.

A public hearing will be scheduled in the new year for this proposed development project.

I posted about City-controlled utility rate changes for 2020 yesterday. These changes were given final reading last night. Also, council gave final reading to a bylaw which updates the intermunicipal business license program which I posted about previously.

Council approved reappointing Mayor van den Broek to the Metro Vancouver Regional District board for 2020 (with Councillor Martin as the alternate.) Council also approved reappointing Councillor Martin to the Fraser Valley Regional Library Board (with Councillor James as the alternate.)

Tomorrow, I will be continuing my post about Monday night’s council meeting.

Monday, December 16, 2019

December 9 Council Meeting: Changes to City utility rates for 2020. New banking contract saves money.

The 2020 budgeting process is well underway for most municipalities in BC, including Langley City. One of the first steps in this process is to approve bylaws which enable changes to the water, sewer, and solid waste charges for the 2020 fiscal year.

Langley City is a member of the Metro Vancouver Regional District. As a member, the City purchases water and sewer services from the regional district. Indirectly, the City’s solid waste removal contractors also use Metro Vancouver waste transfer stations, landfills, and the waste-to-energy facility. Metro Vancouver is in the process of upgrading these critical utilities, not just for accommodating population growth, but to replace aging infrastructure and meet updated federal regulations for drinking water and sewage. This means that these utility rates are increasing in 2020.

Langley City charges a base $75 each for water and sewer services, for a total of $150 per household. These charges are meant to pay for maintaining the pipes and other fixed assets that are not dependent on the amount of water used. Langley City purchases water from the regional district. For residential users, the water rate is increasing by 4 per cubic metre to $1.35. The sewer rate is increasing by 8 per cubic metre to $1.27.

Langley City has water meters. The water rate is based on 100% of a water meter reading. The sewer rate is based on 80% of a water meter reading.

For households that receive City garbage service, the rate is increasing to $204 per year. Strata properties and commercial properties are responsible for looking after their own garbage.

At last Monday’s council meeting, there were also some housekeeping matters that were addressed.

Through a competitive process, BMO Bank of Montreal was awarded a five-year banking service agreement to be the City’s primary supplier of banking services. This will result in an annual reduction of $1,050 in the City’s banking fees, plus an annual increase of approximately $60,000 in interest income.

Council approved a update to its Public Art Policy to change the wording about the public advisory committee that is responsible for making recommendations about public art in our community.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

December 9 Council Meeting: Langley Lions Housing Society’s 981-Unit Affordable Housing Project

Bound by 203rd Street, 54th Avenue, 204th Street, and the Langley Mall, the Langley Lions Housing Society complex is one of the largest seniors-focused affordable housing complexes in the province. There are 518 units of affordable housing within the complex today.

The current mix of people that live in the complex include 466 people who are aged 55 or above (86.3%), with the remaining people under the age of 55. Of these 74 people who are under the age of 55, 3 live in assisted living units, 10 are in the Acquired Brain Injury Program, and 8 are in the Mental Health Program. These programs receive funding from Fraser Health (the provincial government.)

Rendering of overall redevelopment plan for the Langley Lions Housing Society complex. Select image to enlarge.

The buildings in the complex are at the end of their useful lives; they need to be replaced. There is also an affordable housing crisis in our province. With this in mind, the Langley Lions Housing Society is looking to replace the buildings within the complex over the next decade or so. This will result in the number of affordable housing units increasing to 981 units.

The first phase of the project that is being proposed is to replace the now demolished 66-unit Birch Building with a new 8-storey, 101-unit building funded in partnership with BC Housing (the provincial government.) They are currently proposing that 80% of these units be for seniors which is lower than the current 86.3% mix today. These units are proposed to be primarily 1-bedroom.

Renderings of proposed 101-unit Birch replacement building. Select image to enlarge.

The proposed redevelopment is phased in such a way that every person that lives in the complex today will be able to remain living within the complex during its redevelopment.

Because this is a significant project, Langley City’s Official Community Plan will need to be updated. This is in addition to rezoning the properties which the complex is on, plus approving a development permit for the first phase of this project which is the new Birch Building. Langley City is also requiring a housing agreement be signed to ensure that the buildings remain affordable into the future, and that they are primarily for lower-income seniors.

Council gave first and second reading to amend the Official Community Plan, rezone the properties, and discharge the current land-use contracts. This will enable a public hearing to be held on January 13th, 2020.

This is one of the most significant redevelopment projects to occur in our community. As always, I will be keeping an open mind and listening to people in our community to make sure that we get this right.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

80% of people support Langley City funding a performing art centre. Support for cannabis stores, more house options, and more investment into the community.

Langley City’s recently released the results of its community survey. This survey is done every three years, and is based on a representative sample of people from the community. Yesterday, I posted about how people feel about the quality of life in our community, what contributes or detracts from their quality of life, and what major issues are facing Langley City, both today and historically. Another part of the survey focused on getting people’s opinions about potential initiatives that the City could pursue.

People who participated in the survey where asked about various proposals to improve parks and recreation facilities. The following lists some proposals, and their level of support:

A wildlife interpretive centre along the Nicomekl River: 76%
Additional community gardens: 74%
Additional off-leash dog areas: 65%
A new indoor pool: 64%
Pocket parks in Downtown Langley: 62%
Enclosing Al Anderson Pool: 45%

56% of people that completed the survey supported cannabis retail stores coming to Langley City. Of note is that people are very passionate about this topic with 31% of people strongly supportive of cannabis retail and 35% strongly opposed.

People where also supportive of adding small-scale retail at certain locations in neighbourhoods south of the Nicomekl River. Along with this, people were interested in seeing more housing options in those neighbourhoods such as duplexes, townhouses, and smaller lot homes. All these items were supported by at least 2/3rds of people in our community, including the majority of people that live south of the Nicomekl River.

The majority of people who completed the survey were also supportive of the City providing financial incentives to increase the stock of affordable housing in our community.

I am a strong supporter of the City building a performing art centre in Downtown Langley. When asked if they would support Langley City funding part of the construction and on-going operating expenses of a performing art centre in our Downtown, 80% of people said “Yes, please!”

80% of people support the City funding a performing arts centre in our downtown. Select image to enlarge.

One of the concerns in our community is around on-street parking. Similar to previous years, there was virtually no support for installing parking meters to help with turn-over in Downtown Langley. About 41% of people supported parking permits to help make more on-street parking available in residential areas.

I did not post about all the topics that were covered in the community survey. Please view the complete community survey results on Langley City’s website.

The community survey is completed over the phone, and has been since its inception. This year, there was an option for people to complete the survey online as well. The results of the online survey were not weighted, so they are not a representative sample of the community. Even so, while the results of the web survey were different, they tracked with the sentiment of people who completed the phone survey. These web survey results are available from the City’s website.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

95% of Langley City residents believe they have a good quality of life, but…

Every three years, Langley City completes a community survey to track quality of life metrics about the community, and to get opinions from residents about topical issues. This survey has been run by Ipsos over the last 15 years. The results of the survey reflect a representative sample of people in Langley City.

At last night’s Langley City council meeting, the latest survey results were presented. Over the next few days, I will be going over the results of this survey.

One of the basic questions asked in the survey is “how would you rate the overall quality of life in the City of Langley today?” Over the last 15 years of surveys, this has remained constant with 95% of survey respondents saying that quality of life is good or very good.

Overall Quality of Life today for Langley City residents. Select image to enlarge.

The ratio of people that choose very good, good, poor, and very poor has not significantly changed since the 2016 survey.

What is interesting is that when people were asked how quality of life has changed over the last three years, while 65% of people said that it has stayed the same or improved, 32% said that it has worsened. In 2016, people’s sentiment was statistically identical. It seems that while about a third of Langley City residents believe that quality of life has worsened over the last six year, this doesn’t seem to be reflected in how they rate their quality of life which has remained high. There seems to be a disconnected.

Change in Quality of Life over the last three years for Langley City residents. Select image to enlarge.

When asked why they believe quality of life is improving, survey participants identified the top reasons as:

  • Recreational opportunities: 13%
  • Well-maintained and clean community: 10%
  • General investment in the community/new things: 7%
  • New/improved roads: 7%
  • Growth/development: 7%

When asked what are the reasons why quality of life has worsened, the top reasons were:

  • Increased poverty/homelessness: 40%
  • Increased crime/drug activity: 22%
  • Over-development: 8%
  • Population growth: 6%
  • Increased traffic: 6%

One of the reasons why I think that a full third of Langley City residents believe quality of life has worsened is because they see increased homelessness in our community. This is an on-going concern, and one of the reasons why I believe we need more supportive housing in Langley.

When asked another way about top issues facing Langley City, survey participants noted:

  1. Social Issues
  2. Crime Issues
  3. Transportation Issues

These top three issues have not changed over the last decade.

Looking at the results of the quality of life section of the survey, it is clear to me that while people believe that they have a high quality of life, they want all levels of government to work together to make sure that everyone has a high quality of life in Langley City. This means addressing long-standing challenges around homelessness and poverty in our community.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Bus lanes in Downtown Langley open. Improving transit reliability, decreasing congestion.

If you’ve been in Downtown Langley lately, you will have likely noticed the new bus lanes that have been installed. While there are a few finishing touches left to do (when the weather is dry and above five degrees), these lanes are now fully functional.

New bus-only lane along 203rd Street between Fraser Highway and Logan Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

When most people think of Langley City, frequent transit might not be the first thing that comes to mind; there many be some questions as to why TransLink and the City installed bus-only lanes.

Three buses in a row during afternoon peak period in Downtown Langley. Select image to enlarge. 

With the recent introduction of the Fraser Highway Express, Downtown Langley is served by over 15 bus routes which use Fraser Highway, 203rd Street, and Logan Avenue. During the busiest parts of the day, there is a bus about every minute.

As noted on Langley City’s website:

Fraser Highway is a key transit corridor with 13,000 bus boarding’s each week and 3.5 million bus boarding’s each year. It is clear that more and more people are choosing transit with an approximately 30% increase in ridership along the Fraser Highway route in 2019 on top of the 12% increase in 2018. And, in 2018 the 502 bus was the 3rd most overcrowded bus in the entire Metro Vancouver which is what has driven the need for service changes. The 503 has seen a huge uptake as ridership quadrupled since these improvements. The transit improvements include more service along the Fraser Hwy corridor to reduce overcrowding and bus-only lanes to improve the speed and reliability of transit on this corridor.

TransLink recently released a report which shows that general road congestion increases delays and decreases reliability of bus service. TransLink is spending $75 million per year just because of this congestion! By adding bus lanes in Langley City, we are helping to improve the reliability of bus service along one of the most congested transit corridors in Metro Vancouver.

For people that drive through Downtown Langley, the City will be implementing traffic light timing changes to improve the flow of general traffic as well.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

People in Metro Vancouver want more transit, especially in the Fraser Valley

Yesterday, TransLink released the results of its phase one engagement report for Transport 2050. Transport 2050 is the upcoming update to our region’s long-term transportation strategy. This strategy will guide how we build our transportation network for the next 30 years.

In 1993, Transport 2021 was adopted which is a similar long-range plan. It is essentially built-out, or the last components of the plan under construction. The biggest change to that original plan was the switch of high-capacity transit from King George/104th to Fraser Highway in Surrey.

Transit vision from Transport 2021 which was adopted in 1993. Select map to enlarge.

To help inform the creation of Transport 2050, TransLink engaged in a significant public feedback program which resulted in some 31,682 people completing a 6-part questionnaire and/or submitting ideas. As these public engagement results may not have necessarily represented all people in our region —some groups of people may be over- or under-represented— TransLink also commissioned a polling firm to ask the same questions, weighting the responses to be more representative of our region’s people.

So, what do people think about Metro Vancouver and its transportation system?

Well, the most submitted idea was to expand transit in the Fraser Valley. This is good news because it confirms what I and others in the South of Fraser have known for a long time; there is a pent-up demand for transit service in our communities.

When asked why people live in their neighbour, the top four responses were because it was:

  • Near transit
  • Close to shops and amenities
  • Near my family and community
  • More affordable

When asked about what we should prioritize as a region in the future, there we two response that received more than 50% agreement:

  • Expanding and improve the transit system
  • Increasing housing choice and affordability

As the region changes, I’d most like us to prioritize. Blue = TransLink public engagement, Orange = Weighted Poll. Select image to enlarge.

Expanding highways, which just get jammed up with traffic a year or so after being expanded anyway, is not a priority for people in our region.

To view a summary of the feedback received, please view the full phase one report. As I stated earlier, this feedback will be used to help create Transport 2050 which is due to be completed at the end of 2020.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Latest news on SkyTrain to Langley

Is the SkyTrain really coming to Langley? This is a question that I get asked from time to time, and the answer is yes. While funding is currently only available to build the extension of SkyTrain to Fleetwood today, work is actively underway to secure the funding required to get the line built to Langley.

Map of proposed SkyTrain extension to Langley. In two stages. Select map to view.

One of the first steps to securing funding is to complete the business case to build SkyTrain to Langley. TransLink management is providing an update to the TransLink board later this week, including the latest updates on expending SkyTrain along Fraser Highway.

Full Scenario: King George to Langley City Centre Fleetwood Scenario: King George to 166 St
Scope 16 km
8 stations
55 vehicles
7 km
4 stations
25 vehicles
Ridership 62,000 in 2035
71,200 in 2050
39,900 in 2035
44,200 in 2050
New transit trips 24,000 in 2035
30,000 in 2050
12,000 in 2035
14,000 in 2050
Benefit cost ratio 1.24 1.12
Capital cost* $3.12 billion $1.63 billion
Annual operating cost† $32.4 million $17.0 million
Annual fare revenue† $21.3 million $10.2 million
In-service date 5.5 years fromproject approval 5.5 years fromproject approval

Work done since earlier this fall includes:

  • Completing a corridor geotechnical investigation program
  • Completing a reference case design
  • Completing studies to support the project environmental screening review
  • Completing risk workshops, risk analysis and industry market sounding to support assessment of procurement options
  • Initiated briefings with senior government on elements of the draft business case
  • Advanced negotiation of agreements with Surrey, Langley City, and Township of Langley
  • Advanced Operations and Maintenance Centre (OMC) programming and site assessment analysis
  • A second round of public engagement

The business case for this SkyTrain extension will be completed early next year. Once the business case is signed-off, formal funding agreements will be drafted with the federal and provincial governments. Once complete, an 18-month procurement process will start for building SkyTrain to Fleetwood, followed by a 4-year construction, testing, and commissioning period.

The federal and provincial governments have pledged their support for the Mayors’ Council transit vision which includes building SkyTrain to Langley. The missing funding to build to Langley is the regional portion. The Mayors’ Council will need to figure out the right combination of property tax, gas tax, and/or development charges to complete their full transit vision which includes SkyTrain to Langley. I’m optimistic that they will be able to sort this out next year.

* Year of expenditure, costs for project completion to Langley will increase the longer construction is delayed
† 2019 dollars

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Solutions to reducing homelessness in Langley City

Addressing homelessness is a serious challenge not just in Langley, but in communities throughout BC. Cuts to critical government programs in the early 1990s is one of the reasons why homelessness is on the rise today. The good news is that we know how to reduce homelessness, and all levels of government are starting to act. Find out what this means for Langley City.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Building a Walkable and Transit-Accessible Community: A First Look at Langley City’s New Concept Land-Use Plan.

As I posted about last week, Langley City is in the process of updating its official community plan. This plan, and accompanying zoning bylaw, will guide development in our community for decades to come. With fast, frequent bus service launched this fall to Langley City along Fraser Highway, and SkyTrain in the works, we have an opportunity to rethink how our community grows.

People's hopes and fears about the future of Langley City. Select picture to view.

Metro Vancouver data says that our region, and our city, will continue to grow. If we continue with “business as usual” development patterns, we will end up with more motor vehicle traffic and more congestion. If we choose to build a walkable and transit-accessible community, we can keep traffic at bay, while building a happier and healthier community.

After an intense one-day workshop, a concept land-use plan was created. This plan is all about making a walkable, bikeable, and transit-accessible community.

Langley City really consists of two different development patterns today: the more urban north of the Nicomekl River, and the more suburban south of the Nicomekl River.

The concept land-use plan embraces these two different patterns to ensure that the character of our community isn’t fundamentally changed.

Concept land-use plan for Langley City. Select picture to view.

The location of the SkyTrain stations are known. Within a 10-minute walk of these station, the concept plan calls out creating transit villages with high-density mixed-used buildings that would support residential, retail, and office uses. Radiating away from the SkyTrain stations, the density and mix of uses would reduce.

Should high-density housing be built near SkyTrain in Langley City? Select picture to view.

Because there is little to no green space in the northwest section of Langley City, the concept plan calls out the need for new park space.

Along Fraser Highway, the concept plan seeks to replace the current strip mall land-use pattern with a transit corridor land-use pattern such as like Burnaby Heights.

There would be no change to our industrial land base nor the Langley Bypass. Along Glover Road and Logan Avenue, the plan is to support high-tech businesses with uses such as light industry, retail, and office. This area would be transformed to be more walkable and bikeable.

The Fraser Highway One-Way would maintain its form and character as our downtown core.

South of the Nicomekl River, the concept plan seeks to add small-scale coffee shop/corner store retail at key locations to help support creating a more walkable community. Because 200th Street and 208th Street will be high-quality bus corridors in the future, the concept plan would allow 3-storey or lower ground-oriented townhouses or du-tri-four-plexes along these corridors.

The areas near the Nicomekl River would be aligned with the proposed land-uses called out in the Nicomekl River District concept plan.

The concept plan also calls out the opportunity to added granny flats or carriage homes in the form of “invisible infill” to the area south of the Nicomekl River bound by 200th Street, Grade Crescent, and 208th Street.

There would be little to no change in all other areas south of the Nicomekl River.

An open house was held on Thursday to get people’s feedback on the concept plan. There will be future opportunities to submit your feedback about the concept plan online. I will post this link when it becomes available.

Based on feedback received from the community and council, the concept plan will be refined.